By Charly SHELTON
For the 39.6 million Americans of Irish ancestry, St. Patrick’s Day is among the most important days of the year. My mother, Mary O’Keefe, is Irish and has a deep Irish pride which was passed down from her father, Don Keefe. My mother and her three children are the first generation to officially bring back the O’ in our name, as it was at Ellis Island when our family immigrated in 1881. For years, my sisters and I would miss at least half a day of school or work in the morning to go to the pub for a traditional Irish breakfast and to raise a glass in honor of those O’Keefes who passed away. You may hear about your co-workers going out for a green beer at a bar after work on St. Paddy’s Day, but this is a bit more than that. I would like to avoid the “green beer crowd” if at all possible on this most important day and instead opt for good corned beef, potatoes (not cabbage), loud Irish music and a cold pint of Guinness.
This year was under even more intense scrutiny for a good time because on St. Patrick’s Day next year, I am getting married. I know it may sound a bit overkill, but I’m marrying a cute Irish girl with an Irish themed wedding and we’re going to Ireland for the honeymoon. I’ve even found the ancestral O’Keefe tartan for a kilt and, yes, the Irish wear kilts too. So this year’s St. Paddy’s Day purpose, aside from fulfilling the annual tradition, was to find the best party in L.A. to move to after the wedding.
For several years, my family went to Ireland’s 32 in Van Nuys for breakfast and usually our favorite Irish band, The Twilight Lords, would be playing. If not, there was always some good band on stage and Irish dancers in the aisleway. I’ve been to that pub every year either in the morning or the evening because it was the best Irish party in town. It’s dark and a little dingy but the food is good, the sausage is bloody and the feeling is perfect. But over the last few years, it has been less and less Irish. The breakfast was less tasty and the music was more mainstream. It was crowded, not by Irishmen, but by everyone. It was becoming a green beer crowd.
We went this year after waiting 20 minutes to get in, paying the $10 cover charge apiece, $18 for a Smithwick’s and a whiskey, and barely had room to stand by ourselves and listen to the Ozzy cover band. This is 10 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day – the height of when you should be having an Irish party like you see in “Titanic.” And what’s more upsetting is that we left another party to get to Ireland’s 32.
That morning we started at Tom Bergin’s in L.A., our breakfast spot for the last couple of years. Then we went home and had tea and soda bread, and for a late lunch we were invited out to Tam O’Shanter on Los Feliz. I’ve been before to have dinner but I didn’t really think of it as being that much of a hot spot. Sure enough, I was wrong.
There was a tent in the parking lot with a stage for an awesome band, The Ploughboys. They were serving corned beef and cabbage or, for lighter fare, corned beef sliders, and their beverage options – Guinness, Smithwick’s or Guinness IPA. It was a Guinness sponsored event so the whole place was covered in Guinness posters and promos. There were people dressed up in full regalia with kilts and Prince Charlie jackets, and little girls broke out dancing at the foot of the stage. When you’re standing in a crowd of people drinking Guinness and screaming along to “Tell Me Ma,” you can’t help but get into the spirit. This was a real Irish party. I had more fun at Tam O’Shanter than I’ve had at any other bar in years.
So next year when we get married the plan is to have breakfast at Tom Bergin’s (for me, she has to go to a pub in Long Beach), get married and then head straight to Tam O’Shanter for the afterparty.